For years, Crawford said he tried to convince Dallas County family court judges that his son was not sick but they believed Bowen, who would eventually claim that their son was dying, initially from a rare genetic disorder and later from cancer.
Crawford said a Dallas County judge even blocked him in late 2012 from visiting his son, who was then 3.
“It was always the same story: Christopher is dying. The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know to take care of him,” a tearful Bowen would tell the judges, according to Crawford. “... Every time I went to court, they made me feel like I was the worst human ever.”
The 34-year-old woman is in Dallas County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. Her court-appointed attorney did not return a message seeking comment Friday but Bowen denied the allegations last month to CPS investigators.
Crawford said he is grateful that Bowen stands accused of wrongdoing, but remains frustrated that it took so long.
“It’s horrible for my son, or any kid because obviously my son is not the only one that has had to go through this type of torture,” Crawford said. “The system has to be exposed — all the weaknesses that are in the system — because the kids don’t deserve that.”
The allegations against Bowen fit the model for what is known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a person exaggerates or creates medical symptoms to gain attention.
Convincing family court judges that a mother may be medically abusing her child is often a challenge, experts say.
Even in 2017, such medical child abuse is still relatively unknown when compared to other types of maltreatment and “so many court judges are inexperienced in this realm,” said Dr. Marc Feldman, an Alabama psychiatrist who is a national expert and author on Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
“I encounter tone-deaf family court judges a lot,” Feldman said. “They, like most members of the public, can’t let themselves believe that an apparently-loving mother could engage in medical child abuse.
“They are used to seeing gross evidence of physical or sexual abuse — bleeding, bruising, broken bones — and don’t seem to respond to the more subtle indications of medical child abuse.”
Feldman said such judges also tend to treat doctors as “gods who are incapable of error, not realizing that these abusive mothers doctor-shop until they find someone who will acquiesce to their demands.”
Crawford said he recognizes he made mistakes during his fight in the family courts.
Several times, he represented himself — something he now regrets. He said while Bowen seemed to draw on the judge’s sympathy with her claims and tears, he only angered them with his insistence that Bowen was lying.
“I’m not a criminal. I’ve never been before a judge for anything. Of course, I’d seen “Judge Judy” but I thought Judge Judy was fake,” Crawford said. “To see real life Judge Judys, that was something new to me. I’m like, they’re allowed to talk to me like this?”
Though he had court-ordered visitation initially, Crawford said Bowen would frequently cancel at the last minute, claiming Christopher was too sick. She’d tell judges that Crawford didn’t know how to properly care for their seriously ill son, further delaying his visits until he could take court-ordered classes in things like CPR and G-tube care.
Until recently, Crawford’s last visit with his son had been Dec. 7, 2012, when he took the boy’s great-grandmother to Kaylene’s Dallas apartment to see Christopher.
“We went to court two weeks later and Kaylene told the judge that Christopher went into cardiac arrest due to my visit,” Crawford said.
He says at a subsequent hearing, [the judge] said she was taking away Crawford’s visitations with his son since he refused to believe the boy was dying.
“She asked Kaylene, ‘Would you mind if his father sees him one more time before he passes away?’ but Kaylene said no,” Crawford said. ...
In January 2014, he hired a new attorney and filed for custody of Christopher.
When they went before [the judge], Bowen cried and claimed Christopher, then 4, was in a coma.
“ [The judge] immediately stated she’d heard this case and she can’t believe we would drag Kaylene back to court when the child is dying,” Crawford recalled. “She wouldn’t hear the new evidence that included doctor reports that Christopher was not ill.”
... More than three years later and even after Bowen’s arrest, Crawford is still fighting — this time trying to get Christopher out of foster care and home with him.
He said CPS has expressed reservations about moving the boy out of foster care because Christopher doesn’t know his father very well. Never mind, Crawford points out, that Christopher doesn’t know his foster family well either.
“That’s taxpayer money. Why spend all that extra money when he has a father that has been there from day one, that’s been fighting for this?” Crawford said.